I Thought It Was Cancer: Mom Who Gave Birth at 49 on Her Miracle Baby

It isn't unusual for a woman approaching 50 to believe she is going through menopause. But for Angela from Texas, her sporadic menstrual cycle and feeling unwell were far from it.

Angela, now 51, told Newsweek about the frightening moment she was told she might have ovarian cancer in December 2019.

Initially, the surgical technologist from McGregor went to her family doctor as she felt exhausted, sick, and had lost weight. She expected a perimenopause diagnosis, but blood tests revealed a positive pregnancy result.

However, there weren't any celebrations as doctors looked at Angela's medical history to find a battle with unexplained infertility. Therefore, she was told it might be ovarian cancer as the disease can mimic pregnancy and even produce a false positive due to the increase of hormones.

family photo
Angela, then 49, after giving birth to Abel on August 20 2020. And the family, one year later in August 2021. Angela

Ovarian Cancer and Pregnancy: Do They Have Similar Symptoms?

Newsweek spoke to Dr. Jillian O'Donnell, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, to find out more about the link.

O'Donnell said: "The symptoms of pregnancy and the symptoms of ovarian cancer can overlap, but some key features can help to tell the difference between the two.

"Both pregnancy and ovarian cancer can cause abdominal swelling, changes in appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, changes in bowel habits like constipation and/or diarrhea, changes in bladder habits such as urgency, frequency, incontinence, unexplained changes in weight, menstrual irregularities, and pelvic or abdominal discomfort."

O'Donnell points out that "a [positive] pregnancy test is much more likely to be from a pregnancy than from ovarian cancer."

She explained: "Most patients with ovarian cancer will have a negative pregnancy test. In rare types of ovarian cancer, the tumor itself produces the hormone beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (HGC) which is made first by the ovary and then by the placenta in normal pregnancy; this is the hormone that is detected in a urine or blood pregnancy test."

Getting Pregnant in Your Late Forties, After Years of Infertility

Angela and her husband Abelino, now 58, had previously been told there was less than a 1 percent chance of conceiving, after spending $10,000 on fertility treatment. So, when she went to the doctors, they were led to believe it was something much more sinister.

Speaking to Newsweek, Angela said: "When I was 37, I wasn't on contraception because my husband and I wanted to start a family. I had three heartbreaking miscarriages before we tried several rounds of Intrauterine insemination (IUI) which is a fertility treatment that involves directly inserting sperm into the womb.

"We were trying for seven years before doctors said the chances of it happening are very slim."

Aged 45, tests revealed Angela's follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels were elevated and she had a diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) a condition in which the ovary loses its normal reproductive potential, compromising fertility.

She added: "We had scientific proof that pregnancy is highly unlikely so we accepted we aren't going to have a kid and decided to focus on our careers.

The odds of conceiving were against Angela, then 48 and husband Abelino, then 56. Angela

"I never went back onto contraception because 1 percent basically meant never. Abelino and I found other ways to fill the void by traveling but we secretly hoped a golden egg would appear."

Three years later in December 2019, Angela found herself anxiously lying on an ultrasound bed to find out if she had a tumor or not.

She said: "I went to the doctor expecting a menopause diagnosis and just two hours later, I was having an emergency ultrasound as they thought it might be cancer. They told me to bring somebody with me so I automatically thought the worst while Abelino and I waited.

"I had a vaginal ultrasound and the sonographer was very quiet, I was worried sick. He suddenly stopped and showed me the screen even though he wasn't meant to.

"And there were two sacs and two heartbeats, I couldn't believe my eyes even though I knew exactly what it was. I was flabbergasted. I was 48 and my husband was 56 at the time."

Angela recalls questioning if the pregnancy would be viable due to her age. Because of this, the couple opted to keep it a secret until their first official scan in March 2020.

(L-R) Abelino, then 56, holding scan photos and Angela, then 48, showcasing her bump at work.

She told Newsweek: "Our dream had finally come true but we didn't dare get too excited. It was difficult keeping it a secret, I was so worried and apprehensive as I had only ever seen horror stories about geriatric pregnancy.

"Sadly, our first ultrasound revealed baby B didn't have a heartbeat. I was heartbroken, yet so grateful for baby A."

After the scan, Angela told her older children Jessica, then 30, Tanner, 28, and Zac, 29, from a previous marriage. They also have children, making Angela a grandmother of five.

She said: "Abelino was on cloud nine as this is his first child but I was nervous about telling my adult kids as I didn't know how they would react. They were shocked but supportive from the get-go."

They weren't the only ones who were surprised, Angela remembers the gynecologist's astonishment at every appointment.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), pregnancy after the age of 45 years is infrequent and the mother and baby should be considered as high risk. There is a greater incidence of spontaneous abortion, gestational trophoblastic disease, and chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.

Fortunately, Angela had a "smooth" pregnancy and the baby was growing "perfectly."

Abelino, then 56, kissing Angela, then 48, bump. Angela

Even with a bump, she spent 12 hours per day working on her feet before giving birth naturally at 39 weeks and five days.

On August 19, 2020, baby Abel was welcomed into the world weighing 7 pounds 13.6 oz.

She told Newsweek: "I was 49 years old when I gave birth! He is a miracle baby, we prayed for him for eight years. However, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, being an older mom is a struggle. Keeping up wasn't as difficult as when I was younger but I do have a lot of patience now.

"We do get more tired but he is a joy and we see the little things I missed when I was younger. I am financially stable so I don't have any worries about buying diapers, formula, or anything else. I do feel that it is much better. We own our home, have great careers, and have two businesses. These years go by so fast, I want to enjoy them."

While Angela is loving life as an older mum, she has been mistaken for Abel's grandma by strangers.

She said: "Strangers automatically assume we are his grandparents and they have been quite rude when they discover I am the mom. Some people have told me they would have aborted if it was them. We are happy so don't understand why people say rude things but I have learnt to shrug it off."

Angela hopes her story can inspire other couples to never give up on their dream of starting a family, adding: "I do believe that not giving up can definitely happen. I want readers to know to listen to their heart.

"I was told to abort the babies by doctors as there's a high chance of abnormalities but I pushed for more tests that came back normal.

"I felt like too many times physicians forget, it is a human being. Some women my age might "accidentally" fall pregnant and listen to the strange things suggested by medics.

"But I am living proof it can happen so people shouldn't give up. I will be 68 when he graduates high school, but tomorrow is not promised.

"You can be 22 and not live to see their graduations. We are focusing on living in the now, not so much on the future like his wedding, finding a career—we are planning for the future for him but not focus on it."